Take a walk on the wild side! Learn about science and nature while getting your backyard garden certified as a wildlife habitat. This activity is a great way to teach kids that, to find examples of science in action, they don’t need to look any further than their own backyard.
Did you know that your backyard or balcony can be certified as a wildlife habitat? All it needs is to contain certain elements that protect and nourish wildlife. Many organizations and non-profits will certify areas as official wildlife habitats if they meet certain requirements.
Hop online and research organizations that certify wildlife habitats. The most popular is the National Wildlife Federation, but some states and cities give out certifications as well. The organization will provide specific guidelines to follow.
The most common attributes organizations look for are sources of food and water, shelter and places to raise young. Have your child make a list of food sources available in her yard for wildlife. Are there any native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries or flower nectar? If she does not have any of these items in her garden, arrange to plant some, or make a bird feeder.
Next, your child can list water sources in her yard, such as birdbaths, ponds or a lake. Help her set up a birdbath or other water garden if needed.
A covered shelter area for wildlife could include bushy thickets, a pile of rocks or a birdhouse. Shelter gives wildlife protection from predators and weather. Have her list which ones are in her garden or work on providing one. If you need a birdhouse, you can learn how to make your own here.
Wildlife also need a place to raise young. Have her check the garden for thick shrubs, leafy plants, mature trees, or a nesting box. She can list which nests she has or needs.
After completing the the above steps, help your child fill out the application and send a check for the application fee, if necessary. Congratulations – you are now the proud parent of a wildlife hero!
Beth Levin has an M.A. in Curriculum and Education from Columbia University Teachers College. She has written educational activities for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and Renaissance Learning publishers. She has a substitute teaching credential for grades K-12 in Oregon, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.